“Being autistic doesn’t make anyone less of a person”

Aisha and Yue Ting

Fairmarch is proud to kickstart a series “Let’s Be Friends”. It is a series of interviews and stories from friends of different backgrounds and different abilities. Just imagine having a cup of coffee (or any preferred beverage!) with a friend on a relaxing afternoon and asking them “How are you today?”

These stories will give you a closer peek at our friends’ lives and experience a snippet of their routines.

“Let’s Be Friends” aims to provide a comfortable, cosy space for all of us to learn and form personal perspectives on how society can aim to be kinder and even more inclusive.

The first series touches on the topic of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Expect interviews of 3 friends- a friend with autism, another who hires and lastly, one who is a mum to a daughter on the spectrum. If you are ready, read on!

From a friend,

Val.O

“Being autistic doesn’t make anyone less of a person” 

Let’s Be Friends with Saleha from Bead by Bead!

Chatting with Saleha was like chatting with an old friend- candid, relaxed, with honest laughter generously given in between. It truly felt like a warm sunny day where I could almost sense her smiles across the telephone line.

This conversation ignited so much joy in me, especially in turbulent times of an ongoing pandemic, Saleha showed me unfaltering strength, courage and hope. With such resilience, despite the ups and downs (let’s not deny challenges exist), she is definitely an optimistic role model we have a lot to learn from in our community.

 

Hi Saleha! Could you share a little about yourself, your daughter and the business that you own?

Jane and Saleha standing

Jane Ng and Saleha (right)

Hi I am Saleha, a mother of 4 girls, 2 are special kids. Together with my friend, Jane Ng, we started Bead by Bead, a social enterprise that makes craft for gifts. My daughter Aisha, 19 years old and her daughter, Yue Ting, 23 years old, both with autism, help with the handicrafts.

 

What made the mother duo want to set up Bead by Bead? And also, what do you do?

Just like many parents, after our daughters graduated from special schools, we were lost and unsure what is next for them. Bead by Bead gives our daughters an avenue for creative expression and an opportunity to be engaged. It expends their energy and trains their fine motor skills. It is like therapy for them!

Bead by Bead is not for-profit. We are focused on engaging our daughters, mostly at home where they feel unthreatened and more productive.

It is nice when people suggest how we can do more, however as parents, we have a lot of consider. Questions like does it disrupt their daughters’ routines, are they able to complete the task comfortably, can we breakdown the steps of the craft for them to understand and execute, will arise.

Aisha quilling

We do mostly quilling but recently, we have also ventured into soap making! We are also in the midst of exploring fabric craft.

Right now, because of COVID-19, our orders have decreased but Aisha has not stopped crafting. She has been making greeting cards to be given to beneficiaries at children and elderly homes.

 

That is so inspiring! Amazing that your daughter is giving back to the society, especially during this pandemic. Share with us more about Aisha and Yue Ting. 

Aisha doing her sequin artwork of toucan

Aisha in this photo

Aisha is an introvert who likes routine. When Aisha is comfortable at home, she can be very productive. She does not like noise- we stay near the playground and kids playing there is too loud for her.

Oh no, I’m sorry for her…

Don’t be! It is good so she has the chance to learn how to cope with it. She has her earmuffs with her so when needed, she has learnt that she can put them on. I cannot protect her forever, so she needs to learn too.

Aisha looking at a glass bottle that Yue Ting is holding.

Yue Ting in this photo

On the other hand, Jane’s daughter Yue Ting is an extrovert! She is spontaneous. Her unique personality is her determination and thus a tendency to be ‘naggy’, she will repeat her requests till things get done.

Both girls are very different and have different triggers. However, it is comforting to know that despite so, Aisha and Yue Ting are friends and they work well with each other.

 

Just like colleagues! How about sharing a time when you feel so happy and proud of Aisha?

Aisha standing next to her sequin artwork of toucan
Now that you asked me, there are so many times when I felt so proud! I discovered that
Aisha could do more than I realised. Once, her school informed us that she will be presenting a huge sequin artwork as a token of appreciation in a formal event. It was a surprise to me! I did not know she could work with sequins, let alone create a big art piece! I was so proud.

Also, Aisha has previously submitted two Kindness SG Singa the Lion artworks for their “Arts in the City: We Love SINGApore” initiative where both of her artworks were adopted! The money raised was donated to charity.

 

Aisha is doing so much for the community and you must be so proud. That’s also possible because you are a great parent! Anything you wish to say to other families with persons with autism? 

(shy laughter) I just do what I can! But never deny their condition. Normalise it. Discover their strengths and turn them into learning opportunities. Just like Aisha and art. It is not easy but try your best not to be distracted by problems, stay focused on their strengths and interests.

Also, parents should not neglect their own mental health. Don’t ever feel alone, chat with other parents too! You get ideas and different perspectives from them. A lot of us feel guilty that we are not doing enough, so find your group of friends and talk about it. They will keep you grounded.

Lastly, if your child has siblings, allow them to grow up together. It gives them time to understand each other and know that we are all just different individuals, nothing too special.

 

What is your dream for an inclusive society?

Aisha and Yue Ting doing preparation for craftwork

To have a safe environment for our children to grow up in. An environment away from abuses especially when our children are not able to defend themselves. A ‘retirement village’ of sorts will be very nice! I dream that one day, maybe all special needs’ parents can come together to create this space.

 

Thanks so much Saleha, it has been a very enlightening conversation! I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did. Any last words you wish to add?

Thank you! Please let everyone know this. Being autistic doesn’t make anyone less of a person. Above their usual behavioural issues, they are real people with passion and personality in all of them. Let’s create awareness together!

Now you’ve read about them, it is time to support this meaningful venture by Saleha and Jane, and their daughters Aisha and Yueting! Bead by Bead can be found here. Like and follow them, comment with encouragement and better yet, purchase some artworks for gifts or future events!

You can also shop conveniently at Fairmarch – your one-stop online shop where you can find other social enterprises too! Shop away!

By Fairmarch Volunteer Writer, Valerie Ong

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